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Category Archives: Discipleship

Faith Like You Mean It

(a sermon for June 24, 2018, the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, based on 2 Corinthians 6:1-13)

“Are you sure you want to be a minister?”

This was the rather pointed question that I heard time and time again from the man who not only was my pastor but also the member of the clergy who‘d been assigned as my mentor and advisor in the years leading up to my ordination to the Christian ministry! “Are you sure you want to be a minister?” He was always asking me this, sometimes with a smile but oftentimes dead serious; and I must confess that it did seem rather odd at times that the very person who had been charged by the wider church to offer encouragement in my process of discerning my sense of calling to the ministry seemed to be trying to talk me out of it!

Now, I must add at this point that this man was among the most caring, supportive, nurturing and yes, encouraging people I could have ever hoped for in my pastoral journey. Moreover, even as a young “wanna-be” pastor he gave me so many valuable opportunities to develop my skills as a preacher and worship leader; truly, even all these years later I realize that so much of what I do now as a church pastor I first learned from him.  But he was also a realist, and he wanted me to understand the whole truth about this pastoral vocation to which I was being called: that despite its many joys, working in the ministry can be a very hard job; that the hours were long, the work often demanding and the pay not nearly as much as could be received in other professions; and that the stress of it will almost certainly take its toll on you if you’re not careful, and also on the members of your family.  And not only that, he said, but be aware that sometimes, despite your best efforts, the people you love and serve as a pastor and preacher just won’t be listening to what you have to say… or else, you’ll find out they were listening and just said no!  Either way, that’s when you’ll need all your faith to stay strong and to keep at this ministry to which you’ve been called.

So…“are you sure you want to be a minister?”

Well, as of today I’ve been ordained 34 years so I think the answer to that question was and is, “yes!”  And may I say that it’s been a wonderfully joyous and grace-filled journey every step of the way; and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life than being a pastor!  But I also have to admit that over the years I’ve discovered again and again that my pastoral advisor was right on all counts; and I must tell you that there have been moments, albeit not many, but a few along the way when it did take a fair amount of faith to stay strong and to keep pressing forward on the pastoral journey.

Of course, what I’m talking about here is not unique to ordained ministry, is it?  Indeed, unless I miss my guess, there are times for each one of us here, no matter what our particular calling or vocation happens to be, that to be honestly and wholly faithful people, that living as true witnesses of God’s grace and love can be a real challenge; most especially when what we believe and what it is we seek to do “with our hearts wide open” ends up being ignored or rejected by those we’ve sought to love.  Perhaps you and I can’t attest to having endured anything on that list of persecutions included in our text for this morning – “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger” – but I suspect some of us might know what it is to have our faith dismissed by others – perhaps even by those close to us – as something naïve at best and fanatical at worst, a belief system that’s totally unrealistic and out of sync with the values that modern society and the world sets forth!

I really don’t wish to sound overly negative here, but this is often the hard and fast reality of how the world treats people of faith, especially in these divisive hyper-partisan times we live in!  And it’s why we do need all the faith we can muster to stay strong and to keep solidly on our journey of discipleship.  As Paul himself wrote to what presumably was a faltering group of Christians in the city of Corinth, “As we work together with him [with Christ], we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.”  Or, as it’s wonderfully translated in The Message, “We beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.”

Let’s unpack that a bit.  To begin with, we need to understand that Paul wrote there to the Corinthians was actually very personal in nature; the response to some very specific and very painful difficulties he was having with the Christians there.  Apparently, there was lots of rumors spreading throughout the church in Corinth (it’s always about the gossip, isn’t it!) regarding Paul’s sincerity in faith and a lack of credentials for ministry.  So what becomes clear is that as faithful as Paul was seeking to be in this situation (“with no restriction in our affections,” he says), living out his faith in ways that were sincere, truthful, loving and genuine; being patient, kind and good as he reached out to his brothers and sisters in faith in Corinth, these Christians had in fact sort of closed off their hearts to Paul.

So now, about five chapters of dealing powerfully and not unkindly with matters of divine grace and reconciliation, Paul lays it on the line to Corinthians that the time had come for their hearts to be opened; quoting Isaiah in that “now is the acceptable time; see,” he says, “now is the day of salvation;” the time for the righteousness of God to be demonstrated in each one of those who have been reconciled to him through Christ.  In other words, now is the time for the faith that’s needed to do this ministry to which we’ve been called together and which we share today and in every day that is to come!

And this admonition begins with that very first verse we shared this morning; translated still another way, “See to it that you do not receive God’s grace in vain.”  Now here’s something interesting:  the word that’s translated almost everywhere as “in vain” is the Greek word kenos, which probably more accurately means, “empty.”  So what Paul’s actually saying to the Corinthians is if you are going to accept this graceful gift of God’s salvation and love, do not do so in a way that empty and meaningless!  In other words, quoting Scott Hoezee here, “if God’s grace has really taken root in your hearts and you really understand how his salvation works, then this had better show up in your lives.”  What Paul is doing here, writes Hoezee, “is making it clear not only that working for Jesus is a rough and tumble business in this brutal world” but he is also spelling out how all the faithful need to react to the hardships, persecution and conflict that will inevitably come as a result of it.  And simply put, it comes down to living out your faith not in some casual, nearly empty kind of way, but rather faith like you mean it!

And to illustrate both the importance and the result of such faith, Paul then gives the Corinthians – and also you and me –  that long list of the struggles of discipleship… but also the blessings that come as those struggles are met with true faith and the acceptance of God’s reconciling grace.  In other words, affliction will be met with purity; hardship creates knowledge; calamities bring forth patience; even the pain that results from being “beaten up, jailed, and mobbed” nurturing “gentleness, holiness and honest love.”  So many things can, and will happen when you seek to be true disciple of Christ you are called to be; but “in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute,” known or unknown, even as one dying, in a true and meaningful life of faith we are so much more.  See, says Paul, “we are alive; as punished, and not yet killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

Like I said before, very few of us will ever have to face the kind of full on persecution that Paul or so many other of the early Christians had to endure for the sake of their faith in Jesus Christ.  And yet, I can’t help but remember my old advisor’s warning about ministry not always (if ever!) being an easy or convenient way of life.  Likewise, for any of us it’s all too easy, given the inevitable difficulties and struggle of doing what’s right where our faith is concerned, to let our hearts get closed off to its importance not only to our lives, but also to our world.  Each one of us, you and you and me, needs to be living faith like we mean it; to quote Scott Hoezee one more time, most especially in these days of confused situations, in the church “we need the message and the truth of what Paul says… do not receive God’s grace in vain, “or in emptiness.  “Too much is at stake for the church to look no different from the rest of the world these days.”  And then he adds this, which I thought was very timely:  “Before we start lobbing accusations at one another… [or] before we start knocking each other around in the same rough-and-tumble spirit that is animating the larger body politic today, we had best take a good, long look at our Savior Jesus Christ,” and reflect on whether our actions and words risk rendering the grace of God in our midst in ways that end up vain and empty.

My question for you today, friends, is if you can say that you truly live your faith like you mean it.  Are you able to find the spirit led resources that not only keeps you strong and empowers you to live through the times of personal and worldly rejection, but also provides a means to share the spiritual riches you’ve been given with others?  Is your heart open wide to the ministry to which you’ve been called (and yes, don’t ever forget, we all have a ministry in Christ’s name!), and does the fullness of God’s grace in your life become the source material of righteousness and salvation in the world?

The thing that’s both interesting and incredibly reassuring is that in this ministry that I’m a part of I get to see it unfold all the time:  in those who have dismissed the notion that one’s Christianity is merely a one hour a week proposition, but have decided that things like hope and joy, peace, justice and above all love are more than just ideals but are made real in caring for others who stand near to them in direct and very tangible ways; or for that matter in reaching out to those who have long felt themselves to be beyond the reach of anyone who cares!  I see it in those who have chosen to go against the grain of whatever  pop culture is proclaiming at the moment and to stand up for that which makes for God’s peace – his shalom – and to do so in a way that is not divisive but unifying, without finger pointing and name calling but in a manner wholly rooted in the love of Jesus.  And I see it in the way of some of those around us have simply endured; the people we all know who have taken on the burdens and uncertainties of life as we know it but nonetheless view every single day as a gift, as an opportunity to show forth true and lasting witness to the wonders of God’s grace within themselves and in all things around

These who the people who have not received what they’ve been given in vain; but who have ever and always lived faith in a way that says they mean it…

…I pray that the same may be said of each one of us, beloved, so that everything we say and do today, tomorrow and always resound with a joyous…

…thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2018 Rev. Michael W. Lowry

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Living the Sabbath Life

(a sermon for June 3, 2018, the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, based on Mark 2:23-3:6)

I think it’s probably safe to say that we don’t observe the Sabbath the way we used to.

Actually, one of the mixed blessings of having been in the ministry as long as I have is that I’m able to see the difference; and I suspect there are a lot of you who can say the same!  Time was – and not so very long ago (!) – that Sundays were set aside as a true day of rest; a time for church, home, family and a bit of relaxation.  As a general rule businesses were shut down, and most stores were closed for the day; school activities – sports or otherwise – were prohibited; and if you were a kid, if you had something happening on a Sunday afternoon it usually involved a church youth group activity.  Depending on your own particular tradition of faith, you might not even have gone to the movies or played cards on a Sunday, because those were things that you simply did not do on the Lord’s Day (that; and because playing cards were at one time considered the “devil’s playthings!”).

Not that everyone always approached this as a wholly (and holy) Christian thing to do, or even something that was particularly religious in nature; it was simply understood that there ought to be a “Sabbath rest” from the burdens of the rest of the week’s work, all rooted in the creation story from Genesis in which God, overwhelmed from the glorious work of creation, exclaimed that “indeed, it was very good,” (1:31) and then “rested on the seventh day.” (2:2) From the very beginning, you see, the Sabbath was intended a blessing to us from God of both body and soul, and as such was to be thought of as holy.

Of course, you know what’s happened; actually a combination of things over time:  the repeal of the so-called “blue laws” that allowed every mall in the country to run full tilt all day on Sunday; the encroachment of more and more Sunday sports and other activities on the weekend landscape; as well as a changing economy that has fairly well mandated the necessity of a two-income family; and this is to say nothing of a culture and life that just keeps getting busier and more convoluted with every passing generation, to the point where church has become for many, a second or third choice, if it’s a choice at all!

And the thing is, it’s all happened very gradually, almost without notice.  I’ve always found it ironic that as a pastor, the Sabbath has always and ever been my busiest workday (!); but I must confess that over the years, little by little I’ve discovered that my “window of opportunity,” shall we say, for ministry on a Sunday has been slowly but steadily shrinking over the years; and that’s because there’s so much going on with people and families these days that there’s hardly room for anything else on a Sunday, much less more church activities!  Like I say, pastorally speaking, the Sabbath just ain’t what it used to be!

Now, I don’t say all of this to complain (well… mostly I don’t!), but simply to point out how much things have changed; and really, in this instance, only over about the past 30 years or so.  And yes, where Sundays and the life of the church are concerned, a lot of us – myself included, sometimes – feel like we’ve lost something sacred, and wish that things could go back to the way “it used to be.”  But that having been said, I also have to wonder… that if in the midst of all these changes to life and living it’s not so much that we’ve lost the Sabbath, but that maybe we’ve missed the point of it.

Because friends, as scripture describes it and proclaims it to the faithful, Sabbath isn’t meant primarily to be just another day off or an opportunity for a “time out;” it’s not to be thought of as a reward for a week’s worth of a job well done; it’s not even wholly about rest, at least not in the sense of an afternoon nap.  Sabbath is about much more than that: it’s about life, and within that life, faith. Sabbath is for the renewal of life – ours, yes, but also the life of all of creation – and it is for the sake of resilience so that each one of us is strengthened and empowered to do God’s work on Monday morning and every day that follows.  It’s about a true ministry of life, yours and mine; and to quote Karoline Lewis, “When the Sabbath is for the sake of life, then it means getting back in there and figuring out where life needs to happen.”

This is what lay at the heart of our text for this morning, two back to back stories from the 2nd chapter of Mark’s gospel in which Jesus has already begun to run afoul of the scribes and Pharisees; specifically, regarding the proper observance of the Sabbath.  First, we have Jesus and his disciples walking through “a field of ripe grain,” [The Message] and because they’re hungry and because it’s the only food available to them at the moment, the disciples start “pull[ing] off heads of grain” to eat.  This, of course, was a major breach of the Law regarding the Sabbath: not only was the work of picking the grain prohibited, so was their traveling through this grain field in the first place; and if that weren’t enough, so was eating food that hadn’t been prepared the day before!  Needless to say, the ancient laws of the Old Testament were quite rigid regarding how the Sabbath was to be observed; in fact, the book of Exodus points out that “everyone who profanes [the Sabbath] shall be put to death,” (17:14) and “whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people.” (Think about that as you go home today, friends!)

So here come the Pharisees, ever so quick to point this all out to Jesus, but Jesus is just as quick to remind them of a story about King David; how David had done something even more sacrilegious – stealing and eating bread from the temple that was reserved for the priests, and on the Sabbath, no less (!) – but how that was permissible because this was the one who was to be God’s anointed king, and the Law, however stringent, had to give way to need. Don’t you understand, Jesus says; don’t you get it?  “The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath.” [The Message again] And then, in the most cutting response of all, Jesus adds, “So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

The point is brought home almost immediately afterward, as Jesus arrives at the synagogue and meets a man whose hand is withered and who desires to be healed; and immediately a decision has to be made.  On the one hand, it would almost certainly be true that if the Pharisees discovered this “unclean” man in the temple, he would not be permitted to stay and would be denied any participation in worship.  On the other hand, however, if Jesus were to actually heal this man’s withered hand – and on the Sabbath – he’d just as certainly be further raising the ire of the religious authorities!

In the end, the right decision was clear; because once again, “The Sabbath was made for humankind,” not the other way around!  The need for love and mercy in that moment exceeded the need for the exact letter of the Law to be followed; and the opportunity for Jesus to bring this man healing was far more important than whatever chastisement would be brought upon him by the Pharisees for doing so.  And with those fuming scholars of Sabbath day correctness looking on, here is what Jesus says (as translated by The Message): “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best?  Doing good or doing evil?  Helping people or leaving them helpless?”

And how do they respond to this?  In every translation the reaction is the same:  they’re angry, but even as their hearts were hardened, nonetheless “they were silent.”  Because in the end, how do you dispute the wonder of a healing act?  How can you squash a miracle of grace on the basis of a technicality of law?  How do you argue with life?

Let us not misunderstand here; by this flagrant act of breaking the Sabbath, Jesus was not flaunting the authority of the Law.  We recognize this all through the gospels: that Jesus regarded God’s law as holy and insisted that that the faithful need “to know, revere, and follow the law.”  But, in words of David Lose, “as important as the law is, it is – and shall always be – a means to an end, a tool, a mechanism in service to a greater purpose.”  Jesus knew that following the law is not what makes us who we are as God’s children; it is meant to help us live wholly unto that identity no matter what, no matter how, and might I add in this case, no matter when.

And that’s a truth that, on this particular Sabbath day, continues on in us.

The fact is that despite the rapid pace of life as we know it in these crazy, convoluted times we have not lost the Sabbath.  You and I are blessed with the invitation and opportunity – indeed, the mandate – to seek the kind of rest, resilience and renewal that is infused with holiness.  But what we need to remember is that our observance of the Sabbath is not to be thought of as the end of this week’s journey of faithfulness, but rather a pause for reflection before the next week’s journey begins.  From the very beginning of our creation, you and I are called to be living the Sabbath life; but ultimately that has much less to do with our stepping away from what we do than it does with getting ready for what is yet to be done!  God created us to love and support one another; to extend to others the same kind of grace and mercy and encouragement as Jesus has given us; to love as fully and openly and as sacrificially we have been loved.  Everything we do (or choose not to do) to keep the Sabbath is the way that we seek to be restored in this wonderful and triumphant ministry of life that we all share.

And, by the way, don’t get me wrong here; speaking both as a child of God and your pastor I do believe, with all my heart (especially now as the more leisurely summer months are getting underway!) that living the Sabbath life does include sharing in “the act and attitude of Christian worship.”  Our coming together here every Sunday morning; our songs and prayers; our proclamation of God’s Word; our shared moments of laughter and tears and silence and fellowship and even the after-church refreshment:  all of it combines to offer up praise and thanksgiving to God Almighty, but also to prepare our bodies and our souls for the work that awaits us as disciples of Jesus Christ.  But then again, so does the time we get to spend today with our families, our friends and our other assorted loved ones; so does that opportunity that might just present itself, wherever we are this afternoon, to reach out to someone in need in any one of a multitude of ways; so does seizing a few private few moments of personal prayer and reflection while hiking, or fishing, or maybe even lounging outside in an Adirondack chair; so does, occasionally, a well-placed afternoon nap with the sound of the Red Sox playing  in the background.

We were made for the Sabbath, beloved; that’s what Jesus said.  So let’s make this Sabbath count for the something as we ready ourselves for the week ahead… and today, let’s start by feasting at the Lord’s table, that we might know Jesus’ presence in the bread and the wine.

Thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2018  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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Jesus Who Prays For Me

(a sermon for May 13, 2018, the 7th Sunday of Easter, based on  John 17:6-21)

What a feeling it is to realize that you have been prayed for.

It’s been almost 20 years now, but as you can imagine, the events surrounding our oldest son’s first surgery for the removal of a pituitary tumor are still indelibly etched in our family’s collective memory.  All of it: from the discovery, after a long search, of the tumor itself and the decision that something akin to brain surgery (the first of what turned out to be four such procedures over the next ten years or so) would be necessary to remove it; through the countless doctors’ appointments, consultations and follow-up visits; and leading up to all those horrible hours spent in hospital waiting rooms waiting for news.  It was a difficult situation, to say the very least; and this is to say nothing of the hard realization that all the medical advances in the world mean nothing when it’s your kid being wheeled into the operating room!

But that said I also have to say that what I also remember about that time was being awed, amazed and utterly humbled by the prayers being prayed for our son.  Now, we knew that our families and our friends would be praying for Jake as he was going through this, and that of course meant everything; and given not only that we were members of a close-knit church family but also that I was pastor of that congregation, we were very grateful to know that the church would be praying as well!  But I guess what was surprising was the depth, intensity and the utter expanse of that prayerfulness; as revealed by the women who gathered in the sanctuary on the morning of the surgery so that they could pray together at the exact moment the doctors were operating; or as evidenced by the prayers coming from the people in other churches in town, as well as from those at Jake’s school, others throughout the community and even from perfect strangers (!) who would came up to us in the supermarket to embrace us and let us know in a variety of ways that they’d been praying for us.

Friends, over the course of several months we got cards and letters from people we hadn’t heard from in forever or barely knew at all; and not only that, but also notes from churches out of town (and even out of state!) who wished us well and who wanted us to know that Jake’s name had been brought up in prayer concerns during morning worship!  I think my favorite, however, were the cards and pictures that came to us from an anonymous someone in Connecticut – we never did find out exactly who – but which was always signed by their cat, “Mittens;” as in, “Mittens is praying that Jake feels “purr-fect” very soon!”

It was amazing, it was uplifting… and it mattered.  It not only offered up to us a large measure of comfort and encouragement at a time when it was sorely needed, it also revealed something to us of the love of Christ in the midst of all our worry and stress.  All those prayers, no matter what their shape or form, made a real difference in our lives; it was such an incredible feeling, and so very important for us to know that our son was being prayed for; that Lisa and I and our whole family was being prayed for; and that there those out there who cared about us and who loved us and, moreover, who trusted God to hear them and respond to them as they prayed for us!

Those who have been there know what I mean when I say that this was life-affirming and in many ways, life-changing; and that’s why we should never underestimate the meaning of what we do together in our prayer time every Sunday morning.  There is power in prayer, and there is love expressed in the act of prayer; which is what makes it all the more remarkable to discover through our text for this morning that in the midst of those final moments just before the events of his crucifixion begin to unfold; even as, as David Lose puts it, he is “anticipating an immediate future that will include betrayal, trial, condemnation, beating, and execution,” Jesus stops everything to pray or those he loves… for his disciples… for those closest to him… and for you and me.

This passage from John’s gospel we’ve shared this morning continues on with what’s referred to as Jesus’ “farewell discourses,” but biblical scholars and church theologians often talk about these verses from the 17th chapter as being Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.”  This is a reference to Old Testament tradition, in which the temple priest would go into the “Holy of Holies,” which was the central-most part of the temple, so to offer up prayers of the people and bring a sacrifice as a payment for their sins.  In our Christian faith, of course, we understand that Jesus stands as a mediator between God and ourselves; offering up the one, true sacrifice – himself – as the final and complete payment for our sin before God.  So… the tradition of the church has always held that this prayer of Jesus in John’s gospel represents Jesus acting as our temple priest; quite literally standing before the throne of grace offering up prayers for his people in preparation for the sacrifice that’s to be made.

And that’s certainly true; in fact, these are verses central to our whole understanding of Christian theology; in particular the idea of Christ’s atonement for our sin, all for the sake of our salvation before God!  But I also have to say that because of how incredibly rich and dense the language in John can sometimes be, we can easily miss how very personal a prayer this is.  I mean, think of it; Jesus is speaking these words to his heavenly Father just prior to that moment in the garden when Judas and the soldiers come to arrest him.  Jesus knows that his hour is nigh, that very soon now he’s going to have to leave his disciples; and so he wants them to be prepared for what’s going to happen next.  Actually, you know, if you read all through these “farewell discourses” in John, you realize that up till this point, Jesus has been giving his disciples a whole series of last minute teachings – about his nature, about the sure and certain hope of life eternal, about peace that the world can’t give nor take away, and about the disciples’ own mission of love moving forward; three chapters’ worth of these teachings in John’s gospel (!) – but now, the lessons are done and in these last few moments before what’s destined to happen happens Jesus needs to pray for them!

And it makes sense; after all, these are the ones who have been the ones closest to Jesus, and these are the ones – whether they understand it or not at this point – who will carry on his ministry! Certainly Jesus wanted his disciples to have the protection and the assurance of God the Father in every uncertain moment that was to come to them, in the days and years to come.  So yes, he would pray for them, which in and of itself is an act of great love and affection; but – and this is important – it turns out that it’s not just the disciples that he’s praying for… Jesus is praying “not only on behalf of these” but also “on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,” (vs. 20)   and that includes you and me, “that they may all be one.”

And I don’t know about you, but the very idea of it fills me with awe: that the very same Jesus who in his moment of deepest despair would seize that time to pray for his disciples is also the Jesus who prays for me!

And what a prayer it is!   It’s certainly not a prayer that all will go easily for his disciples, because Jesus knew it wouldn’t; that it couldn’t!  It’s interesting to note that all throughout this prayer, Jesus talks about how the “world” that hated him would also hate his disciples “because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”  The Greek word that’s used here for “world” is kosmos, which more than just suggesting the physical nature of the earth, really means that which is totally alien and hostile to God’s intention to love and redeem all; in other words, Jesus knows that there will always be that “dark side” of humanity who will hate them simply because of who – and whose – they are!

So Jesus doesn’t pray that all will go along without incident, devoid of any difficulty or conflict in their lives ahead;  but rather that they, and we, might always be protected by the power of God’s name, “so they can be of one heart and mind” just as Jesus and his heavenly father were of one heart and mind.  And his prayers of intercession build from there: praying that more than simply having protection from their troubles, “they may have [his] joy made complete in themselves,” as they go forth with God’s word on their tongues and in their lives; praying that because of this they not be lost as Judas had been “so that scripture would be fulfilled;”   and praying finally, and above all, that they may be sanctified – that is, consecrated, made holy“in the truth;” which is God’s word.

And that’s important, too.

For what Jesus understood would be true for his first disciples would also be true for any of us who are followers of Christ: that the very nature of being his disciples, of adhering to the Word they’d received from him, would mean living their lives as outsiders, living “in the world but not of the world,” and yet because of this, having a clear purpose and mission for life itself; to be made holy for what we do, or as the word from the original Greek, hagios, suggests, to be “set apart for sacred use.”  Jesus – the Jesus who prays for me and for you – prays that in and through all our journeys and all our trials and all of our crises of life and even faith we might be set apart by God himself for sacred use!

It’s a big prayer; really, there’s no other way to describe it.  But in the end, you see, what it all comes down to is while that life is difficult, full of the unexpected, the unimaginable and very often the unmanageable, our Lord, in infinite love and care, has prayed – and is still praying – for us: that we might find the strength we need to get through; that we might glean joy in the midst of sorrow; and that we will be made aware in ways both large and small that we are not, and have never been alone in the struggle.  Jesus prays for us with the same constancy of care and compassion as that of the one who knows us the best; he shows us the deep and abiding love of God who brings to us life both abundant and eternal; and he assures us that even right here and right now, in the midst of it all, we’ve been set aside for a sacred purpose.

What a feeling it is to realize that you have been prayed for. 

I wonder what Jesus is praying for in us today.  Maybe that we find the strength, the encouragement or the patience to get through the stress and uncertainty of whatever it is we’re having to face at this moment; a medical issue, perhaps; or a “rough patch” in a relationship with a loved one, a friend or co-worker?  It could be that Jesus is praying that we find the courage we need to stand up in the face of injustice (both personal and societal), or that we might we finally get some sense of healing of mind, body, spirit… or all three at once.  Maybe he’s praying that we have the grace to receive and accept the forgiveness we’ve needed for so long; or else that we figure out that what we really need to do is to be more forgiving of others!  Maybe Jesus is simply praying that we’ll stop for a moment, and pay attention… pay attention to God’s presence and power, and remember how much we’re loved.

Whatever the need happens to be today, friends; know that Jesus already knows, and that he’s praying for you and for me; and that we are the recipients and the stewards of that truly amazing grace.

There is power in his prayer; there is power to comfort us, to strengthen us, and to move us through the joys and struggles of this life… and I pray that each one of us here today might be strengthened and renewed by the power of that prayer.

Thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2018  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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